Blog favourite Gill Hoffs has take time out from her next project to review her year. Many readers of this blog will know how difficult it is to tear yourself away from your WIP so I’m really grateful to Gill for getting involved.
Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
Yes – my second shipwreck book, “The Lost Story of the William & Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson” was published in September by Pen & Sword AND one of my favourite nonfiction authors gave me a cover quote for it – the amazing Simon Garfield called it “A terrific, rollicking adventure” (and thus fulfilled a dream). I’ve been reading his books since well before becoming an author myself so to have him take the time to read my work and like it enough to comment on it, well, that’s really made my year.
And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
September was pretty fab considering how dodgy 2016 has been/is being for many of us, and there were two highlights for me in particular, both involving my book. Waterstones in Warrington have been incredibly supportive of my work and helped make me and everyone attending my events very welcome, and the launch party for my William & Mary book was no different. We had a cake-and-questions session and there were even presents from the audience including steak pies and a hand-made cat jigsaw. It was ACE! Then a week later I was in Glasgow giving talks about ‘my’ Victorian shipwrecks on an actual factual old ship as part of Doors Open Day, and my husband’s family came along. To talk about these long-forgotten wrecks while below deck on a similar vessel was just so satisfying and also kinda surreal. I was stroking and/or sniffing everything in sight.
Favourite book in 2016?
I’ve mainly been reading research – as per usual – and re-reading Dick Francis novels to clear my head at bedtime, but I couldn’t resist “Messages from the Sea”, a beautiful nonfiction book compiled by Paul Brown. He’s put together a TON of messages found in bottles from over the past hundred years or so, some funny, many sad, and a little bit of information regarding the person/people or ship involved. It’s perfect for dipping into and I’d recommend it not just to people interested in maritime history and nautical tragedies but also to writers seeking inspiration and unusual character names. There’s at least one confession to murder in there that left me aching to find out more!
Favourite film in 2016?
As a huge fan of Ransom Riggs’ “Peculiar Children” trilogy I was delighted (and totally unsurprised) to hear there would be a film. I deliberately didn’t reread any of the books before seeing it as I knew there would be differences – of course there would be, there always is – so I treated it as more of a tribute to the books than a film of them. I loved it! And as someone who spends her time researching and writing about shipwrecks it really got me in the sweet spot. Definitely asking for the DVD for Christmas!
Favourite songs of the year?
“Dreaming” by Blondie, which is the same age as me (though in my head I’m still 19). When I’ve felt a bit shit the drums on this song have pepped me up and kept me going, and the line “dreaming is free” has been KEY to retaining a vestige of sanity during a difficult year. My other big favourite is “Isobel” by Bjork, which was apparently inspired by a moth clinging to her collar for ages. Both artists are way ballsier than I can ever imagine myself being and I love them for that, too.
Any downsides for you in 2016?
Oof, yes. I don’t think anyone I know is getting through this year unscathed. But it’s the awful bits that make the good parts all the sweeter. Well, that’s what I tell myself before I down another jar of Nutella and retreat into research-mode. You know that saying, “Same shit, different day”? Well, I write history books, so for me it’s more like “Same shit, different century” – and it’s scary. I think if they ever remake “The Martian”, Matt Damon will be out there going “No! No! I don’t want to return to earth! Don’t make me do it!”
Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Same as this year, pretty much. 2016 has been eaten up with talks, events, articles, and proofing “The Lost Story of the William & Mary” so I couldn’t devote the time I wanted to editing novels and sending them out to fiction agents (or writing the new ones I’ve planned out) – though I loved it, and don’t regret making those choices, I need to prioritise things a bit differently in 2017. But once I’ve finished writing my third shipwreck book, “The Lost Story of the Ocean Monarch: Fire, Family, and Fidelity” that’s IT, I’m editing and submitting for the rest of the year. Between talks and events. And shipwreck book edits. And promotional articles. And judging competitions. Well, you know what I mean. I’LL TRY.
What are you hoping for from 2017?
On a personal front, a fiction agent, a fabulous contract for at least one novel, film adaptations of my shipwreck books, and time to read for fun. Lots and lots of reading for the sheer hell of it, because I like the cover or the title or the book fits in my pocket for when I’m out and about. Just general happiness and satisfaction, I think. Surviving. Other than that, 2016 has pretty much knocked the hope out of me in terms of large groups of people and the world in general. I suppose I hope that out of all the pain and fear I see people expressing online and in person that there’ll be an eruption of powerful art, music, books, comics, games, and movies, and a change for the better – something we can all live with. A new series of “Firefly” would be good too…